No One Is Home

  • These four walls surround me. The space within them is safe but I don’t like it. I want to reach out to people I once knew. but I can’t.

  • I don’t feel like I belong. I tried for a while, but it seemed like I was the only one making an effort, so I stopped and I was right, no one called.

  • It’s okay when I’m working but when I get home there is nothing, no one.

  • The television is my companion;

  • They say that they’re my friend but they’re never available. They always have an excuse not to catch up.

  • I’m used to my own company.

Have you ever thought like this? Despite the fact that social media connects us to the four corners of the world, many people suffer from loneliness. You can be the life of the party, or be in a crowd and still feel lonely. Loneliness is, I believe, one of the most destructive issues that we, as a society have.

Research has shown that loneliness is more than an emotion. Loneliness can kill you, it is that devastating. Research has shown that loneliness is the cause of medical problems and increases our mortality by 26%

Loneliness causes

  • Physical symptoms – aches and pains, headaches, illness or worsening of medical conditions

  • Mental health conditions – increased risk of depression, anxiety, paranoia or panic attacks

  • Low energy – tiredness or lack of motivation

  • Sleep problems – difficulty getting to sleep, waking frequently or sleeping too much

  • Diet problems – loss of appetite, sudden weight gain or loss

  • Substance use – Increased consumption of alcohol, smoking, medications, drugs

  • Negative feelings – feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or thoughts about suicide

(https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/loneliness-isolation)

Loneliness infiltrates every aspect of our lives. Psychology Today reported that when socially isolated our nervous systems automatically switch into ‘self-preservation mode’, which makes us more abrasive and defensive – even if there’s actually no threat.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/loneliness-makes-your-brain-work-differently-study-shows-a6732056.html

So how did we get to be a world full of loneliness. Sometimes it’s a choice and other times it is through circumstances that are not handled well. Someone close to you may have died, maybe you’re disconnected from your family, you are shy and don’t do well in social gatherings, have a mental health disorder and people don’t know what to say or do so they stay away from you and you stay away from people, maybe you fear you’ll be rejected because of your beliefs or how you act, maybe you just don’t have a purpose in life.

There are many reasons why we are lonely, and everybody gets lonely at some point but when it is for extended periods of time, it is a problem. It could even be a habit that you have grown used to, you may not like it, but you’re used to it.

Social media is great at connecting but as we know it can also be quite toxic. You can connect with anyone, any where in the world because at any given point in time, someone, somewhere will be awake.

You can have a job and be good at what you do. You can go out with people and have fun and laugh but when the party is over, when the work day is done – how do you feel? Who do you go home to or do you go home to an empty house where the silence screams louder than the fun you just had or the milestone you hit at work? How do you feel when your only companion is the television or the radio? Do you turn it off or leave it on for background noise so that you know you’re not alone.

But how do you end the loneliness cycle. It’s very easy to say get over it. Join a group or get a hobby. It’s very easy to say go out and meet people. It’s not that easy, if one has been hurt by people or if one is shy and feels awkward in social situations. I put my hand up here, I’m not good in social situations, I pretend I like them, I’ll go, I’ll have a conversation or two but I feel out of place.

I have a handful of friends. I love catching up with them but we’re all busy. We have work or study or family commitments and they can take a priority, but I also know that if the crunch came, I can rely on those people, to find time to have a coffee and chat, no matter what the time of the day is.

Loneliness can contribute to mental health disorders of depression and anxiety. Who haven’t you heard from in a while? What family members haven’t you spoken because you’ve been too busy. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy phone call or a visit.

Just a simple sms message or message via Messenger to say Hi, you’re thinking of them, will start the process of connection and show you care. And when you invite them out for coffee and chat and they tell you that they can’t. Keep asking because they really want to.

As March – Mental Health Awareness month starts to wrap up think about those in your life. Let us start to reconnect and let the ripple effect begin.

No One Hears You Scream

It was just a word spoken in jest. Nothing was meant by it. An action that in any other circumstance would be just that an action. But it takes just a word, an action, a phrase or tone of voice to bring back memories that I would rather forget.

I am that person who prefers not to sleep, so I don’t dream. I am the one who wakes in the night screaming, sweat pouring off me, my heart racing, as the nightmare plays out in my head again. I am the one who freezes, because of a word uttered, and I am the one who braces myself fall the fallout, ready to defend myself when someone raises their voice or a hand.

Yes, I have PTSD, but only those closest to me, might get glimpse of it, every now and then. For the most part, most people wouldn’t know, because I’ve learnt to deal with most of my demons, I know how to breathe to calm down and to avoid certain places. But I along with many others live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is one of six common types of anxiety disorder. The others are Generalised Anxiety disorder, Social phobia or social anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive disorder, Panic disorder and Agoraphobia.

Anxiety disorders is one of most common class of mental disorders. Approximately 14 % of Australians have an anxiety disorder in any given year. People with one anxiety disorder are likely to have another, and also to experience depression. There are however many mental disorders that people suffer from – different phobias, schizophrenia, bi-polar and paranoia just to name a few.

March is Mental Health Awareness month and whilst it’s good to dedicate a day or a month to a certain issue, be it Cancer, Domestic Violence, Epilepsy and the list goes on, it shouldn’t be just forgotten about until the next year.

Issues like Mental Health should be talked about daily but sadly Mental Health as with other topics are still taboo and only discussed when something happens, like a murder. When it hits the news people suddenly become informed and will speak their opinions,without thinking, about the wrongs or rights of a situation.

In reality, we should be able to talk about Mental Health and other issues, that society faces with facts and empathy, in order to gain understanding and knowledge. For it is with knowledge, that one can begin to help another, and as a society, is that not our role. To help one another, not shun someone, because they have an illness.

Cat’s vs Humans

Ever notice that cats are interesting creatures. In some ways they remind me of humans. I know, I’m weird, but just think about it for a moment.

Cats can be quite aloof creatures. They definitely have their own minds about what they want. One minute they want to know you and will come up, purring and rubbing themselves up against you, to let you know that they want to be held and petted, and at other times they will walk away from you. Ever notice that humans can be like that. One day they like you the next they don’t, one day they’ll talk to you, the next they’ll walk away and ignore you.

They, being cats, can be fussy eaters. Some will eat anything while others will be picky. Mine, for example, will only eat an expensive brand of cat food. I have tried them on cheaper ones but they refuse to eat it. I have heard people say that if you leave the food there, the cats will get so hungry that they will eat it eventually.

I tried that but my cats are and were stubborn… maybe they take after their owner, but after two days, I gave in. They refused to eat it and I felt guilty that they hadn’t eaten, so I relented and got the tins that they like.

But humans can be fussy eaters too. There are those who will eat a specific diet like Vegans and Vegetarians; or those who are lactose or gluten intolerant. There are some who will eat anything and everything, including anything you leave behind on your plate. Then there are those who have been traumatised by food, yes that has happened, and so don’t like specific ways food is cooked. If we didn’t need food to survive I for one would be quite happy not eating, period. And all the food lovers have just gasped in horror at the thought of not eating.

Each cat I owned had a different personality. One was feral so I treated her with care, one started attacking people but when she attacked at night, the vet suggested Valium to calm her down. Well she ended up on 10 micrograms, enough to knock a person or two out. but no, she kept on attacking and ended up having to be put down. My current cat is so docile.

She is 16 but looks like a six month old. She never grew very large nor did she age and so I’m always forgetting just how old she is. She’s very rag-doll in her behaviour. She has tiny little teeth and claws that do absolutely no damage. So she’s very cute.

You can roll her over and rub her tummy and she won’t do anything but lie there. Occasionally she gets grumpy if you rough play with her and she’ll give a little bite, but the look on her face is priceless. If she does bite, she gets this horrified look on her face that says ‘Oh no, what have I done. I’ve bit the human.’

People have different personalities too. Some are aggressive, some are docile, whilst some of them, their mood depends on whether or not they’re having a good or a bad day. Some people look their age whilst others don’t. Cats come in all shapes, sizes and colours depending on their breed. So too do humans. We have different shapes, heights, cultures, colours – it is what makes us unique and should bring us together in unity rather than divide us.

Sometimes I think that people are a bit like cats. Sometimes we’re nice and want to be social and at other times we just want to be left alone. We can be snarly and scratchy or cuddly, warm and friendly. Really though, we should not forget that people are not purrfect, but we are meant to be relational. We are meant to get on with each other; we’re not meant to go through this world solo, yet many of us choose to for whatever reason we have to do just that.

Unwanted House Pets

Yuk. Yuk, yuk, yuk – that’s all I can say. I have a few pet hates. I like nature so long as it’s outside where it can roam free and chances are that I won’t see it. But there are a few of nature’s critters, that insist on coming inside and that’s where I draw the line. I’ll put up with flies, they’re mainly a nuisance in summer but the good old fly spray does wonders at killing them, although their death dance is annoying. And I’ll put up with the odd ant, sure it’s got a bite but I’ve got a rule, bite me and die, but there’s a few things I won’t put up with. Even the possum is preferable and he’s noisy, oh boy, is he noisy.

I hate cockroaches. Every time I see one, I cringe. I’m not alone in this. Most people when you just say the word, ‘Cockroach’, they cringe and say ‘Eeww.’ I have heard people scream when they see one.

I know they have their purpose, they are nature’s scavengers. They can eat anything and can survive without food for long periods of time. These things have survived from prehistoric times, so they’re not easy to kill off. We often joke, that if anything is going to survive an atomic blast, it’s the cockroach, but it wouldn’t surprise me, these things are tough.

But I can’t stand them. It’s not like they’re even pretty. No, they’re downright ugly but I’m sure someone likes their sleek style and reddish tinge. Fly spray doesn’t kill them, if anything it just makes them angry. And you have to spray them from underneath to do any kind of damage. I don’t like stepping on them because I hate the crunching noise of their body breaking underfoot. And they are fast, I mean these things are incredibly fast and they can turn and dodge just as quick. They’re also mean; I swear they deliberately chase you down.

Up there with cockroaches are spiders. I have a fear of spiders, so much so, that I will freeze if I see one. If it is near me I start to panic. Someone suggested watching the film ‘Arachnophobia’ to cure my fear of spiders. It worked so well that my fear has increased. Having been bitten by a few poisonous spiders, surely no one can blame me for not liking them in my presence.

I heard on the radio a guy from the museum explaining why spiders come in when it’s hot. ‘They have sensitive legs’ he said ‘so they come inside because the heat outside is upsetting them.’ They’re upset. They have sensitive legs, really, oh my gosh. Care factor, zero. I’m sorry, I don’t care, these things bite and their fangs hurt. I still have the fang marks from one encounter.

The huntsman are the worst, they like to scare you. Oh, they’re not poisonous but they do like to get into places where you’re likely to see them or come into contact with them. Like the poor guy who picked up his coffee cup to get a drink and found one inside. Shiver down spine moment. Or the guy who took off on his motorbike, builds up speed, flipped his visor down and found one on the inside – no wonder he had an accident.

But there are those that are poisonous and winding up in hospital is not my idea of fun. There are so many nope’s with these pests I don’t know where to start. No spiders, absolutely not allowed. Rule of house, if you’ve got 8 legs and come inside… you die. End of story.

A long time ago there was a mouse plague. I was up in the rural area and the mice were everywhere. There were so many that the cats gave up hunting them, they just let the mice run amuck. You just had to lift a sheet of tin of the ground or bang on the shed walls and they’d go running. I even woke up one night to find one looking at me. Yes, it gave me a fright, that is not what you expect to wake up and see.

Driving down the roads at night and they’d be streaming across the road. You had no choice but to drive over them, all you heard was a popping noise as you ran over them, but it made the owls very happy and very well fed, without having to do too much work. But I’m not a fan of mice.

Lately there’s been a lot of activity in the neighbourhood and surrounding areas. We’ve had a lot of houses ripped down in the neighbourhood and new ones being built but the problem is when they demolish and dig up the ground they disturb the mice and rats. And where do those vermin go? They find a new place to set up home which is usually the nearest house.

There is nothing worse than hearing something chewing or gnawing at night. Nothing worse than seeing a mouse or rat run across the floor or across the curtain rod. Mice are a little more tolerable. They tend to scurry away and almost apologise for disturbing you but rats. Those things will stare you down and dare you to deal with them. I’m so glad for the new self setting traps. No injured fingers or hands when using them.

Those are the house guests I don’t like entertaining and they know the rules. Enter and I see you, you die. I don’t like killing spiders, mice, rats or even cockroaches but I’m not setting up a breeding centre either. They can find somewhere else to inhabit. I don’t care where, so long as it’s not in my house. And now, I have to go explain to my cat, that her role is to kill the mouse, not make it her friend.

What Have I Got To Be Thankful For?

You have a lot to be thankful for. You may not see it but you do. Being thankful though doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Being thankful is, in fact, a choice. It is an active, deliberate choice that one has made in order to think about the things that he / she has rather than the things that they don’t have. When you are thankful for what you have it releases a joy, a happiness within you, that others can see, and it allows you to be generous to others, no matter whether you have a lot or a little.

I used to struggle with having no gratitude or thankfulness. I’m not perfect, I had a hard life and so I struggled big time with this concept. So I know others will, have and do as well.

When you hear the word ‘Gratitude’ or ‘Thankfulness’ what does your brain start thinking because those first thoughts are good indicators of whether or not you have a heart of thankfulness. Do you think ‘I’m so thankful for…’ or are your thoughts more like ‘Are you serious? What do I have to be thankful for?’

Does your thoughts go to the problems in your life. How can I be thankful I have no money, no food, no home and/or no work. Or do your thoughts go deeper – how can I be thankful my life was terrible, I was abused, I’m in a Domestic Violence situation, or perhaps, I was or am being bullied.

The problem with this line of thinking is that soon the ‘What if’s’ and the ‘If only’s’ scenarios start to play out. We can find a whole lot of reasons to not be happy and to not be thankful. I know I’ve been there, I have the scars to prove it, and my life could dictate to me how I should be ungrateful, because of the trauma I’ve been through, but at the end of the day it comes down to a choice.

We can spend our life complaining about what we don’t have, and living in our own torment, sorrow, anger and jealousy, at those that have what we want or think we want, or we can change our mindset and be thankful for that which we have, which can then potentially open a door for more good to come through.

Being thankful, having a heart of gratitude produces joy – a happiness that others can see and for those who know your circumstances, it confuses them to the point that they want that happiness too – because they will be thinking when they watch you ‘How can he/she be so happy when…. has happened?’

But it’s not easy especially if you have scripts from the past that play on a constant reel in your head. It’s hard to silence that voice. I know how hard it is to be happy when you have nothing. I’ve been there; I’ve been so broke I’ve been homeless, days when not eaten because I chose to pay a bill over getting food. It’s not easy when everything you see says you’re not good enough, nothing you do will work out but that’s where you have to find strength from somewhere to push through and tell yourself that you are better than circumstances say.

I’d love to have the bravado and creativity of Sir Richard Branson. To look at him you wouldn’t know that he was an introvert, that he trained himself to be an extrovert. I’m an introvert, I’m not a people person naturally but I force myself to pretend that I like people, I engage with people and I make them laugh and can have a great conversation. I’ve been told by people that they I encourage them and they wish that they were as confident as me and when I tell them that its an act, that I’m not that confident, they say that they would never have known. But I would like some of Sir Richard Branson’s creativity to get around problems.

I’d love to have just a fraction of the capital that the rich people do, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and how about Oprah. I’d love to have enough so that I could pay my bills on time, to not have to worry about whether or not I can eat this week or to have plenty so that I can buy a coat because Winter is coming. But I wouldn’t like my life to be on display like there’s is for all the world to see and love you one minute and hate you the next. And coming from a Domestic Violence background I definitely can’t afford to have my picture splashed across the tabloids. But it’s nice to dream occasionally.

Changing your mindset though is going to take time. For some it will take a long time, for others a shorter amount of time, for others who really struggle they rely on God to help them change but it is making the decision that you want to change that is the first step to change.

I was challenged several years back. I felt it was God challenging me to look at changing my attitude from ingratitude to a more thankful attitude. I felt Him challenge me to write down one thing that I was thankful every day for a month. I was okay with that. Not a problem. But then came the criteria.

It wasn’t allowed to be the same thing every day. Okay, that makes it more challenging but yep, I can do that and then the final criteria. It wasn’t allowed to be shallow, I had to say why I was thankful. So I committed myself to this challenge and got a journal and spent the next month writing down something I was thankful and why each day.

A couple of my entries were:

I’m thankful for those coupons I get. The 4 cents of fuel voucher, the buy 4 coffees and the 5th one is free, spend $5 at the bakery and get stamp, on the 6th trip I got free loaf or 6 rolls, or the buy two for one. Why? Because I saved money which could be spent on something else and interestingly enough the free coffee and the free bread was usually when I didn’t have any money left.

I’m thankful that I don’t live in a country that is riddled with war. Why? I live in a country that gives me freedom. Freedom to wear what I like, to have an opinion even if it’s different to someone else’s, I can go to uni, I can live where I choose to live. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for living here.

I’m thankful that I woke up this morning and there wasn’t a chalk line around my body. Why? It gives me an opportunity to say hello to someone, to encourage them, to show them that someone thinks that they’re important.

Being thankful is a choice. It releases joy and happiness and a desire to share what you have whether that be a little or a lot. Being thankful becomes a lifestyle.